With the Steampunk subculture recently being featured on the current TV series “Castle”, in the comic strip “Luann”, and in Steampunk-inspired gadgets and machines featured in the current “Warehouse 13” series, Steampunk is poised to emerge as a mainline culture and lifestyle on the world scene. While the movement has its roots in many works published as early as the 1960’s, the actual term Steampunk is credited to the science fiction author K.W. Jeter in 1987. Jeter was trying to find a general term to categorize a collection of literary works all set in 19th-century Victorian England.
Although there has been some association of Steampunk with Cyberpunk, the two are really separate and distinct styles. In general Cyberpunk tends to present a dark, brooding worldview, while the Steampunk outlook is one of adventure and optimism. There seems to be something for everyone in the mélange of ideas that is Steampunk. It is expressed in science fiction, anachronistic technology, and Victorian romance all the while embracing the best modern concepts like re-use and re-cycling of resources.
The Steampunk look is Victorian in concept, but is most distinctive when the dress is enhanced by whimsical, fanciful mechanical “technology”, which is often built in to part of the costume. There are no set guidelines, but rather Victorian-inspired trends. Period accessories like watches, gloves, top hats, and parasols are often part of the look. Modern devices like cell phones are often carried as well, but only after being considerably “modded” to appear suitably Victorian.
Steampunk has become a regular feature at many annual events, like the SalonCon – the first neo-Victorian/Steampunk convention, and the two-day masquerade ball Labyrinth of Jareth. At the San Diego Comic-Con International event , Saturday is known as “Steampunk Day”, and has become a major photo event for the media. While it might be easy to assume that Steampunk is all about dressing up, making interesting steam-driven gadgets, and turning the clock back to a more interesting time, it is clear that many Steampunks view it as more. For them, it is a way to provide a critique and a visible contrast to our current society, and to gently offer alternative ways for dressing and viewing the world.
One of the emerging hallmarks of the Steampunk movement seems to be their overall acceptance and inclusion of other, similar trends. For example, Neo-Victorian or Goth followers would be comfortable and accepted among Steampunks, as would a devotee of Cyberpunk. Whether you elect to simply dress in this romantic fashion, or make it a bigger part of your life the invitation is there for you to become part of this lively, creative scene!